By Chesney Hearst, Senior Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A self-proclaimed culture vulture, Irishman Stephen Garland is helping to shine a light on Rio culture while simultaneously building and strengthening communities within the city. Establishing a Rio Meetup group, helping to organize a Meetup for comedy writers, and running Quiz Night Rio, are just the beginning, according to Garland.

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Stephen Garland, the host and organizer of Quiz Night Rio, photo courtesy of Stephen Garland.

“Making events is my creative outlet somehow and I love getting better at it,” Garland told The Rio Times. This week, Garland will present two holiday editions of the Quiz Night Rio event. Lapa Irish Pub will host the first of the two nights on Thursday, December 18th and Gringo Café in Ipanema will host the second on Friday, December 19th.

The event, which has taken place previously in both venues, is fashioned after Irish and English pub social events. Groups of two to six people assemble in teams and compete during four rounds of ten audiovisual bilingual questions about Brazilian and International general knowledge.

“Quiz Night Rio is something I ran in Natal [Rio Grande do Norte],” said Garland, who also runs Active English Rio, a language consultancy service. “[Quiz Night Rio] is just a fun way for natives to enjoy a little piece of real Irish and British Culture, a bilingual quiz, delivered in my Irish native sultry English speaking tones, which proves a wonderful night out very complementary to language learning. No Irish or British pub anywhere in the world is complete without a pub quiz and so Quiz Night Rio is seeking to be the first authentic one.”

Raised in a small town in Ireland, Garland has lived and worked in seven different countries. A Cultural Event Manager, Comedy Festival Director and Entrepreneur, Garland before moving to Brazil, owned two comedy clubs, The Giggling Guiri, in Madrid and Barcelona, Spain. In Barcelona, he also ran the FIC CAT, Barcelona International Comedy Festival.

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Garland on the FIC CAT, Barcelona International Comedy
Festival stage, photo courtesy of Stephen Garland.

It was also in Barcelona that Garland began to explore the live storytelling scene. Inspired by a New York comic, Comical Radio DJ and friend, Garland created an event for storytelling called “VENT!”

“These storytelling nights I find magical… everyone has a story, the nights are a proper loss of inhibition and often a real liberating experience for the teller. It creates one of the most interesting live performance dynamics, where in a cellar bar in Barcelona we would have audiences in tears of joy, empathy and emotion,” said Garland.

“I want to see it happening in Rio a city of so much character and so many stories and every time you watch the news you can see Brazilians mad to tell their story, usually it is when a camera is stuck in their face, my hope is to introduce people to the essence and beauty of a story… in a live space.”

“Telling it like it was, which after a fragile beginning as it was practically unheard of in Europe,” Garland said of the Barcelona live storytelling nights, “got over the first three months and is still running under the management of a wonderful Canadian friend Stephanie Figueira whose partner is actually Carioca.”

Married to a Carioca [Rio native], himself for over ten years, Garland eventually made his way to Brazil with his wife. In Natal in the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Norte, Garland started the Quiz Night events. When he moved to Rio, he began them here, hosting the first Quiz Night Rio at Ipanema’s Gringo Café earlier this year in October.

In November, Garland formed the Rio International Culture Exchange (RICE) Meetup group on the popular site Meetup.com. Then, along with Stand-Up Comedy in English event organizers Kim Levone and Harri Soinila, he created a comedy writers Meetup. That group will meet again on January 14, 2015 at Bunda de Fora to “Find the Funny.”

When asked what he hoped to accomplish through the Meetup group, where each member is known as a “culture vulture,” Garland said, “Basically I want to unearth as many creatives as possible or people who just want to have a go. Our first ‘Comedy Writers Meet Up’ was excellent last week. We had eight serious people, writers, performers, filmmakers and promoters, people with an interest in creating something real.”

Garland then spoke of possibly creating a short film with the group and as a foodie, his desire to explore Rio’s restaurants together as a group. Additionally, Garland hopes to continue the Quiz Night Rio events after the holidays and Carnival and he stated, that in terms of his ideas for the Rio cultural scene, “very exciting plans are afoot.”

When asked why culture was important to him Garland replied, “It is the essence of what we are, mostly unappreciated as money and man-made doctrines stunt our evolution. What does it bring, add to daily lives? Beauty, emotion, instinct, challenges and truth.”

For more information, locations and times of upcoming events organized by Garland and others, be sure to check out The Rio Times Nightlife Guide each day.

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